INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana lawmakers passed a near-total abortion ban on Friday, overcoming the divide between Republicans and Democrats’ protests to become the first state to establish and approve sweeping new limits on the procedure since the annulment of Roe v. Wade in June.
The bill’s passage came just three days after voters in Kansas, another conservative Midwestern state, overwhelmingly rejected an amendment that would have removed the Constitution’s abortion rights protections from their state, a result seen nationwide as a sign of unease over the abortion ban. And it came despite some Indiana Republicans opposing the bill for going too far, and others voting no because of its exceptions.
Roe’s end was the culmination of decades of work by conservatives, opening the door for states to severely restrict abortion or ban it altogether. Some states prepared in advance with abortion bans that were triggered by Roe’s fall. Lawmakers in other conservative states have said they will consider more restrictions.
But, at least in the first few weeks since that decision, Republicans have moved slowly and struggled to speak with a unified voice on what comes next. Lawmakers in South Carolina and West Virginia weighed in but took no final action on the proposed bans. Officials in Iowa, Florida, Nebraska and other conservative states have so far taken no legislative action. And especially in recent weeks, some Republican politicians have recalibrated their messaging on the issue.
“West Virginia tried, and they pulled away from the rim. Kansas tried it and voters vehemently rejected it,” state Rep. Justin Moed, a Democrat from Indianapolis, told the House before voting against the bill. “Why so? Because until now it was just a theory. It was easy for people to say they were pro-life. It was easy to see things in black and white. But now this theory has come true, and the consequences of the views are more real.
The Indiana bill – which prohibits abortion from conception, except in certain cases of rape, incest, fatal fetal abnormality or when the pregnant woman risks death or certain serious health risks – now goes to Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Republican who encouraged lawmakers to consider new limits on abortion in a special session he called. Beyond those limited exceptions, the bill would end legal abortion in Indiana next month if signed by the governor. The procedure is currently allowed up to 22 weeks of pregnancy.
“If that’s not a government issue — protecting life — I don’t know what is,” said Rep. John Young, a Republican who supported the bill. He added: “I know the exceptions are not enough for some and too much for others, but it’s a good balance.”
The bill’s passage came after two weeks of moving testimony and bitter debate at the Statehouse. Even though Republicans hold commanding majorities in both houses, the fate of the bill has not always seemed assured. When a Senate committee considered an early draft of the bill last week, no one came forward to testify on its behalf: the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana called it a “cruel and dangerous billIndiana Right to Life described it as “weak and troubling,” and a parade of residents with differing views on abortion all urged lawmakers to reject it.
Abortion rights protesters were a regular presence at the Statehouse during the session, sometimes chanting “Let us vote!” or “Church and State! so loudly from the hallway that lawmakers might be hard to hear. Several Democrats cited the Kansas vote, in which 59% of voters decided to uphold abortion rights, as an example of the political risk Republicans were taking. Democrats suggested putting the issue to a non-binding Indiana statewide vote, which Republicans rejected.
More coverage of the Kansas abortion vote
“Judging by the results I saw in Kansas the other day,” said Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, a Democrat who opposed Indiana’s bill, “independents, Democrats and Republicans have demonstrated by their votes what is most important to them, and to me, and that is our personal liberties and our liberty.
Todd Huston, the Republican speaker of the Indiana House, said he was satisfied with the final version of the bill. But when asked about the protests in Indianapolis and the vote in Kansas, he acknowledged that many disagreed.
“We’ve talked about voters having the option to vote, and if they’re unhappy, they’ll have that option both in November and in years to come,” Huston said.
Democrats warned of the consequences of passing the bill and noted the state’s status as the first to do so in a post-Roe America. Business leaders expressed concern ahead of its passage: The Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce urged the Legislature this week not to pass the bill, saying it could threaten public health and business interests of State.
Jennifer Drobac, a law professor at Indiana University in Bloomington, expressed concern about the speed with which the bill in her state passed and the relatively short window the public has to debate the issue. its implications.
“Hastily made law is often bad law,” she said. “It highlights the fact that these guys are not foreseeing how unworkable this legislation will be. This is going to impact thousands of people getting pregnant in Indiana alone.
The divisions within the Republican Party were exposed repeatedly during the session. Representative Ann Vermilion described herself as a proud Republican. But said she thought the legislation had gone too far, too quickly.
“The Supreme Court of the United States made the decision to move abortion rights to the state level, which peeled an onion over the details of abortion, showing layers and layers of a subject so difficult that I was not prepared for myself,” Ms. Vermilion said before voting against the bill.
Other Republicans echoed complaints voiced during public testimony from anti-abortion residents, advocacy groups and religious leaders. They wondered how lawmakers who presented themselves to voters as staunch opponents of abortion were now forfeiting the opportunity to pass a no-holds-barred ban on rape and incest. Some opponents of abortion have argued that rape and incest, while traumatic, do not justify ending the life of a fetus that had no control over its conception.
“This bill vindicates the wicked, those who kill babies, and punishes the righteous, the unborn human,” said Rep. John Jacob, a Republican who also voted against the bill. He added: “Republicans campaigned to be pro-life. Pro-life means for life. It’s not just a few lives. It means all lives.
Similar debates unfolded in West Virginia, where the House of Delegates passed a bill banning nearly all abortions. But disagreement erupted when the Senate narrowly decided to remove criminal penalties for medical providers who perform abortions illegally, fearing it would worsen the current shortage of health care workers in the state. The legislation is at a standstill.
Delegate Danielle Walker, a Democrat from West Virginia, said she thought the Kansas abortion referendum was a wake-up call for the more moderate contingent of Republican lawmakers.
“I think they see people going to the polls because people don’t want that, people don’t support it,” Ms Walker said.
Elizabeth Nash, a state policy analyst at the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights, said Indiana offers a glimpse of the dynamic that could deepen in other legislatures in the coming weeks: the difficulty of pleasing their conservative base in the face of other public opposition. restrictions on abortion.
“In Indiana, lawmakers are now between a rock and a hard place,” she said. “They’re between their base, who demand a ban on abortion without exception, “and members of the public who say, ‘we support access to abortion.’ You can see how lawmakers, balancing people’s rights, are also looking at the upcoming election.”
Ava Sasani contributed report.